All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 3)


Today’s suggestion is for all of the newbies to the genre. No doubt you came to our dark neck of the woods from Mystery, Thriller, Crime, or some other sort of speculative fiction genre, but have you ever faced a piece of writing that combines pretty much all of the above?

Thirty Miles South of Dry County is not only a brilliant foray into Kealan Patrick Burke’s unique style of storytelling, but it’s also an amazingly fun romp through a crazy, far-out-there, dystopian world that, well, isn’t actually too far-out-there. 

One of the greatest things about helping new readers along the path of finding great stories is that I get to throw my absolute favorite reads at them. I read this novella when I was looking at the 2013 Stokers Finalists and, in all honesty, I think it should have won.

While Gene O’Neill’s winning novella, The Blue Heron, is a phenomenal piece of speculative fiction, Burke’s entry is so instantly memorable it would easily make incredible viewing as a TV show, a la The Walking Dead or The Killing. Easily. (Burke, if you’re reading, you need to pitch this, man. Pitch it!)

It also helps that Burke is a looker, and a good face to have at the forefront of the genre, right ladies? (Yeah. I went there)


Free Fiction Friday

Well, Halloween weekend is upon us my friends and what better way to get you all spooked up than a few frightening pieces of free fiction.

First up, we have Cullen Bunn’s spooky serial novel, Countless Haints.  This story gets goose bumps out of me every time a new chapter is released and I think it will do the same for you.  Cullen hasn’t released a new chapter in a few weeks so now is your chance to get caught up!


One of my favorite short stories comes from none other than Robert McCammon.  Haunted World is an apocalyptic tale of ghosts filtered through some backwoods sensibilities.  This is a fun one, folks!


Finally, we have a piece of non-fiction to get you in the Halloween mood.  Kealan Patrick Burke is celebrating Halloween by having some truly amazing guests post articles on his site.  One of my favorite articles came from multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author, Lisa Morton.  Lisa discusses the real origins of the holiday.

Offline by Kealan Patrick Burke

Wow. Shorter is sometimes better when it comes to scary, effective, and engrossing genre fiction. Burke’s Offline is a perfect example of a wicked-quick read that touches on modern social media, and exploits it in order to play with our fears. I mean, doesn’t everyone have some fear about what happens online?

What follows is the transcript from a series of screenshots emailed to the Columbus City Police on June 7th, 2011, and subsequently distributed to the media.”

Everyone has a page…

In the last few years, social networking has exploded as one of the best and easiest means of keeping in touch with people. It increases your visibility, allows the creation of a profile that shows you to the world and lets them know everything about you.

Allows anyone to find you.

As I said earlier, with Offline, Burke exploits our innate fears of social media and our sometimes irresponsble willingness to share personal and intimate moments with virtual strangers, even going so far as to call them our “friends”.

Presented in a rapid fire succession of instant messages through Facebook, Offline reads almost like evidence in a criminal proceeding. While the delivery is very simple, and could be easily written off as a quick write, it’s Burke’s delivery that really shows his ability as a powerhouse in modern genre fiction. He truly understands the minds of those who use social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, and injects himself into the mindset of today’s youth seamlessly.

The characters in this book, Josh and Mandy, start off in a normal manner, introducing themselves to each other with the standard “Thanks for the add” message. What seems like an innocuous interaction eventually turns into a creepy exchange, and ultimately into a caustic exchange that results in some of the greatest shivers I’ve read in a piece that tackles this subject manner. The dynamic between the players here is impressive, and Burke’s ability to inject so much emotion into such a restrained media format is incredible. Someone with less skill might completely botch this approach, but Burke truly hits the nail on the head, presenting something modern, creepy, and bordering on a cautionary tale that is steeped in technological urban legend.

A great, short, and addictive read, Offline is a fantastic introduction to a brilliant author and his ability to write in many different styles. Burke has a very clearly defined voice in the genre, and goes ample distances to entertain the reader. This is a must have for all of you social media junkies out there.


The Turtle Boy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Timmy Quinn is a normal boy who is enjoying a normal summer. He and his best friend Pete spend their days digging holes, exploring the local pond and spooking each other with tales of youthful tragedy. The basic ritual that most of us took for granted in our youth. Well, things change a bit when Pete and Timmy stumble upon a strange boy hanging around Myers Pond. The boy appears to be a little off- his skin sags a bit too much, his eyes have a dead quality and he also lets the turtles in the pond use his heel for breakfast. Timmy becomes fascinated with the boy and as he learns more about this mysterious Turtle Boy he uncovers the truly unsettling secrets that his neighbors have been hiding.

Kealan Patrick Burke packs a ton of story in a small space. He is able to build the story and dread with tight pacing and just enough ambiguity to keep the reader guessing. In the midst of this tense story, Burke uses Timmy as the vehicle to bring the reader back to their own youth. He establishes the character of Timmy with just enough generic childhood traits that the reader can instantly place themselves in the small shoes of the lead character. As a result, we feel a personal connection to the fear and shock that permeates through Timmy as he discovers the true origin of The Turtle Boy.

The Turtle Boy is a well-written, well-told coming of age story that leaves much of the answers open to interpretation. It really was a treat to read and I can’t wait to read the other stories in the Timmy Quinn series.